Award-winning author will introduce ‘The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley’ at Dolly’s Bookstore |

Award-winning author will introduce ‘The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley’ at Dolly’s Bookstore

Story is a historic, Western romance

Award-winning author Nina Romano, who lives in Park City, will sign copies of her book, “The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley,” on Dec. 18 at Dolly’s Bookstore. After originally publishing the book in 2019, Romano bought back the rights, re-edited it and published it again this year. The story is about a young farmer named Darby McPhee who falls in love with Cayo Bradley, a young man who was raised by the Jicarilla Apache.
Photo by Trish Turkish

Nina Romano is looking forward to her book-signing event at Dolly’s Bookstore next week.

The Park City-based author will sign copies of her new Western love story, “The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley,” from 1:30-2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 18.

“This means so much, because Dolly’s is an independent bookstore,” Romano said. “The whole ambience of being among booksellers is wonderful. As my friends know, I’m not exactly shy, so having people visit a real brick-and-mortar store to talk with you is wonderful.”

“The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley,” the first installation of the “Darby’s Quest” trilogy, follows the story of Darby McPhee, a young woman who lives in northeastern New Mexico in the 1870s, and Cayo Bradley, who was abducted and raised by the Jicarilla Apache nation.

McPhee’s dream is to get an education, and she makes a promise to her dying mother to fulfill that goal, according to Romano.

“The trials begin when Darby meets Cayo,” she said. “She finds herself wanting to keep the promise to her mother, but also finds herself vulnerable in the sense that she falls madly in love with Cayo. She is young, but the love is truly there. It’s very spiritual.”

Romano, a 2016 Independent Publisher Book Award winner, doesn’t know where she came up with the idea for McPhee’s character.

“I had a friend when I was in college and her name was Darby, and I always liked the name, because it was not a particularly a feminine name,” she said. “But the character isn’t based on anyone I know.”

Bradley is also a complex character, who has just returned to society after growing up in the Apache culture, said Romano, who previously published a 2007 collection of poems called “Cooking Lessons.” Romano created the Bradley character a few years ago while writing and publishing a short story called “Cayo Bradley.”

“Cayo’s real name is Connor Bradley, and he developed into Coyote Bradley, which was the name given to him by the Jicarilla Apache,” she said. “He goes through quite a change from the boy who he was to the man he becomes, and finds difficulty being immersed in two worlds and two cultures.”

Nina Romano's "The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley" is a Western romance set in 1870s New Mexico.
Courtesy of Speaking Volumes

Romano decided on featuring the Jicarilla Apaches because they are located in the northeastern part of New Mexico, where she established the imaginary town of Parcel Bluffs, where McPhee and Bradley meet.

“It’s set in the vicinity of Santa Fe, and that’s a city that I’m very familiar with,” she said.

The last time Romano was in Santa Fe, she visited the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, and met a docent, Sue Knuth, who told her about an exposition that was held by the Jicarilla Apache the week prior.

“Sue had all of these handouts and information about the different aspects of Apache life, and I bought a whole bunch of books, including an Apache dictionary, that I used as resources for the book,” Romano said.

Getting “The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley” to the right publisher took a while, she said.

Romano first published the book in 2019 with Prairie Rose Publications, which specialized in historical romance.

“I was very much interested in having another publisher, Speaking Volumes, accept the book, but by then I had already signed with the Prairie Rose, which was a smaller, traditional and independent publisher,” she said. “And I wasn’t going to renege on my word.”

While Romano originally thought the book would be the first in a series of two, the publishing company only wanted it as a standalone story.

“That was kind of disappointing to me, because I thought there would be so much more of the story to tell,” she said.

After waiting three years to buy back her book’s rights, she wrote Kurt Mueller, managing member at Speaking Volumes, to repitch her book.

“Kurt is the most open-hearted person you ever want to work with in the publishing company,” Romano said. “And instead of wanting a standalone or two books, he suggested the idea of making it into a trilogy called ‘Darby’s Quest.’”

Romano and Mueller’s wife, Erica, re-edited the book for its 2021 release.

“I already have the second book to this Darby’s Quest series accepted by Speaking Volumes,” Romano said. “So we’re looking forward to writing the book.”

Author Nina Romano

When: 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 18

Where: Dolly’s Bookstore, 528 Main St.

Cost: Free


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